A recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list, the town of Vinales, and the valley in which it is set in Cuba's 'green' Pinar del Rio province, is characterised by its impressive round-topped hills, or mogotes. These date back to the Jurassic period and are covered with rich and varied vegetation; they are remnants of the plateau that was eroded by a network of underground rivers millions of years ago.
The Vinales Valley is located about 112 miles (180km) west of Havana. The natural beauty and tranquility of the valley is interspersed with green fields of tobacco, coffee and other crops that grow out of the rich red earth, where traditional agricultural techniques have remained unchanged for centuries. Scattered palm trees and pine forests shelter a variety of melodious birds, and the area is also a magnet for speleologists and cave enthusiasts, being riddled with limestone caves and caverns.
The hilly landscape, quaint villages, oxen-ploughed fields, rustic barns and underground rivers, stalagmites and stalactites, provide a striking contrast to the colonial grandeur and white sandy beaches found on the rest of the island. The main valley village, Vinales, is a charming, very laid-back place that makes a good base to explore the beautiful surrounds.
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